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United Way Suncoast Makes The Pitch For Manatee County At Pirates Game

   United Way Suncoast made the pitch for Manatee County at a recent Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Game.

   Chief Impact Officer Bronwyn Beightol stepped to the mound without a degree of intimidation. 

   It mattered not that a LECOM Park capacity crowd of more than 6,000 looked on with anticipation. It mattered not that the other honorees who preceded her, including former Pirates outfielder Rob Mackowiak, threw perfect strikes. It mattered not that the current Pirates and Tigers stars looked on from the dugout. 

   Confident and unfazed, Bronwyn zipped a fastball to the plate. It sailed high but certainly didn’t feebly bounce to the plate. Nothing we do can be described as feeble.

A Storied History

    The ceremonial first pitch typified the impact of our organization, and it proved to be a perfect start to United Way Suncoast Day with the Pirates. The special commemoration was aided by the Pirates and their sales director Craig Warzecha, and sponsored by RSA Consulting. It allowed donors, stakeholders and team members to enjoy the game. It also gave us the opportunity to highlight our work, including the screening of a 30-second video commemorating our 18-month long Centennial Celebration.

   United Way Suncoast traces its roots back to the formation of the Tampa Welfare League and Community Chest in 1924. Yet we also have a glorious history of serving Manatee County residents. Our work dates back to the Bradenton Presidents Roundtable’s creation of a Community Chest in 1943. The courage of the roundtable to launch such an effort in the middle of World War II reflects the indomitable spirit that carries on today.

   By the 1950s, the Manatee Community Chest had blossomed into a full-fledged support organization, encouraging residents to make the community a “safer, better, place to live.”

Still going strong in 2024

   Today, United Way continues its efforts to strengthen the community and make Manatee a better place to live. In this past fiscal year, we invested more than $900,000 into strategic community partner programs serving Manatee, with an additional $1,381,731 into other partnerships, programs, and initiatives serving Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties.

   We focus on empowering families through financial stability and elevating early learning and third-grade reading. In Manatee, this included our Quality Childcare Initiative devoting 200 hours of teacher training and distributing 5,318 books. We also produced a 52 percent increase in the number of community and family events aimed at promoting literacy in the county.

   Our RISE Eviction Cohort programs also funneled more than $700,000 in direct assistance to community members. And across our five-county footprint, our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program provided free tax preparation services to nearly 10,000 residents. It brought back more than $13.8 million in tax returns, tax credits and tax preparation savings to the region.

Beightol has led the way

   Bronwyn has been at the center of much of this work. She’s devoted 16 years to serving community members as a leader for United Way. She led the way in helping United Way Manatee merge with United Way Suncoast in 2017. She played a pivotal role in creating the Big Plan, a systemic approach focused on elevating kindergarten readiness and third-grade literacy in 10 schools in the Central Corridor. Under her guidance, The Big Plan has become a regional blueprint and it’s now replicated in all five counties. In 2022, the Manatee County School District recognized United Way Suncoast for its outstanding contributions.

   As we move into our second century of service, we’ll continue to make the pitch for Manatee County and all the community members of the Suncoast. With 45 percent of residents living paycheck to paycheck, they deserve no less.

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